Immunotherapy Drugs

Immunotherapy Drugs for Cancer

Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment approach that harnesses the power of the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells. It has seen remarkable advancements in recent years, leading to the development of various immunotherapy drugs that target specific pathways involved in the immune response against cancer. From immune checkpoint inhibitors to targeted monoclonal antibodies and cancer vaccines, these drugs have transformed the landscape of cancer therapy, providing new hope for patients with various types of cancer.

Through a comprehensive overview of immunotherapy drugs, we aim to provide valuable insights into the cutting-edge advancements in cancer treatment and highlight the potential of immunotherapy as a transformative approach in the fight against cancer.

How Immunotherapy Fights Cancer?

Immunotherapy utilizes the body’s own immune system to combat malignancies. This innovative strategy encompasses three primary categories: checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines, and cancer vaccines.

Checkpoint inhibitors disrupt signals emitted by cancer cells, which typically deceive the immune system into perceiving them as healthy cells. By interfering with these signals, checkpoint inhibitors unveil cancer cells to the immune system, enabling their recognition and subsequent destruction.

Cytokines, essential protein molecules in regulating immune responses, are synthesized in laboratories and administered in higher doses than naturally produced. This boosts the immune system’s ability to combat cancer cells effectively.

Cancer vaccines aim to prevent or treat cancer by stimulating the immune system’s response against cancer cells. They may target viruses known to cause cancer or enhance immune recognition of cancer cells in specific body areas.

Immunotherapy can be used independently or in conjunction with conventional treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or targeted therapy, offering promising avenues to enhance treatment efficacy and improve patient outcomes.

Also Read: Immunotherapy vs. Chemotherapy: What’s the Difference?

Immunotherapy Medicines for Cancer

Immunotherapy, a revolutionary approach in cancer treatment, harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells effectively. Among the various immunotherapy drugs available, immune checkpoint inhibitors, targeted monoclonal antibodies, cancer vaccines, and cytokines play pivotal roles in combating different types of cancer.

Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors

  • Ipilimumab: The first FDA-approved drug for advanced melanoma, Ipilimumab blocks the activity of a checkpoint protein called CTLA4. By doing so, it enables activated immune cells, known as cytotoxic T lymphocytes, to attack cancer cells more effectively.
  • Nivolumab: Approved for advanced melanoma and lung cancer, Nivolumab targets a checkpoint protein on activated T cells called PD-1. By inhibiting PD-1, it helps the immune system recognize and destroy cancer cells.
  • Pembrolizumab: Similar to Nivolumab, Pembrolizumab also targets PD-1 and is used for treating advanced melanoma by enhancing the immune response against cancer cells.

Targeted Monoclonal Antibodies

  • Rituximab: This antibody targets CD20 protein on B lymphocytes and is approved for treating B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
  • Cetuximab: Targeting EGFR, Cetuximab is used in head and neck cancer and metastatic colorectal cancer treatment.
  • Trastuzumab: Targeting ERBB2, Trastuzumab is employed in ERBB2-positive breast cancer and gastric carcinoma.

Cancer Vaccines

  • Sipuleucel-T: FDA-approved for metastatic prostate cancer, Sipuleucel-T is the first cancer treatment vaccine. It stimulates the immune system to recognize and attack prostate cancer cells.
  • Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG): Used for early-stage bladder cancer, BCG is a biological therapy that induces remission in approximately 70% of patients.


  • Aldesleukin: Also known as IL-2, Aldesleukin is a laboratory-made cytokine approved for metastatic kidney cancer and melanoma treatment. It enhances the immune response against cancer cells.

Ongoing Research and Clinical Trials

  • Numerous immunotherapy drugs are currently under investigation, promising additional options for cancer treatment in the future.
  • Continued advancements in research aim to develop more innovative and effective immunotherapy drugs for combating various types of cancer.

By utilizing different mechanisms to enhance the body’s immune response against cancer cells, immunotherapy drugs offer promising avenues for more effective and targeted cancer treatment. As research progresses, the landscape of cancer therapy continues to evolve, providing hope for improved outcomes and better quality of life for patients.

Also Read: Can Immunotherapy Cure Stage 4 Cancer?

How are Immunotherapy Drugs Given?

Immunotherapy Drugs

Immunotherapy drugs are given to patients through various methods tailored to each specific medication. The chosen route of administration is crucial for ensuring optimal effectiveness and patient comfort. Here are the primary methods of giving immunotherapy drugs:

Oral Administration

Some immunotherapy drugs are formulated as capsules or pills, allowing patients to take them orally. This method is convenient and can typically be done at home without the need for medical supervision.

Intravenous (IV) Infusion

Many immunotherapy drugs are administered directly into a patient’s bloodstream through a vein. This is commonly done in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or infusion center, by trained healthcare professionals.

Intravesical Administration

For certain types of cancer, particularly bladder cancer, immunotherapy drugs may be delivered directly into the bladder through a catheter. This method allows for targeted treatment of the affected area.

Topical Application

Some immunotherapy drugs come in the form of lotions or creams that patients apply directly to the skin. This localized approach is often used for skin cancers or conditions affecting the skin.

Each administration route has its advantages and considerations, and the choice depends on factors such as the type of cancer, the specific drug being used, and the patient’s individual circumstances. By tailoring the method of delivery to each patient’s needs, healthcare providers can optimize the efficacy and tolerability of immunotherapy treatment.


Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer care by leveraging the body’s immune system to combat cancer cells. Through innovative drugs like immune checkpoint inhibitors, targeted antibodies, and cancer vaccines, we’ve witnessed significant strides in cancer treatment.

As research continues, the potential of immunotherapy to improve patient outcomes grows. By unlocking the body’s innate ability to fight cancer, we’re opening new doors in healthcare. With ongoing advancements, immunotherapy holds promise for more effective and targeted cancer treatment, offering hope for patients and healthcare providers alike.

Also Read: Immunotherapy Side Effects

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